Camping Tips: Bare-bones


Words by Andrew Middleton

As humans, we’ve spent a very long time making our homes as comfortable as possible; and mastering the modern city is a long way from living in a cave. However, when we camp, we reject household convenience for an experience altogether more primitive but yet, somehow, very satisfying. Last month, we featured an article which was titled Bare-Bones Overlanding, in which we focused on vehicle preparation. But overlanding is nothing without camping, and if you go camping when ill-prepared, your trip will be a disaster. There are many facets to camping: some go in a luxury caravan and park in a designated campsite, while others (like me) prefer to chuck a load of kit on a bakkie and park off on the side of a remote mountain.

In this guide, we go back to basics and discuss what’s needed to get along fine and comfortably, and what’s not really vital. A few checklists will also help make your next adventure a breeze. We’re focusing on camping basics here, rather than on a fully-kitted overland adventure. If you are prepared for an overland adventure, you clearly know plenty about camping and have all the gear. The funny thing is that it’s often the little things that catch you out when you’re out in the bush, even after you thought that you’d remembered everything. You know, like the right-foot partner to your left-foot hiking boot, and the spare nozzle for the burner on your (only) gas cooker.


Shelter is vital for any camping trip. There are various options for shelter, from luxury camping trailers to roof-top tents, to sleeping inside your vehicle, to slumming it in a ground tent. For the Bare-Bones option, luxury tenting options are off the agenda. So, that leaves the good old ground tent, which comes in various shapes and sizes – and which, despite only being a fraction of a millimetre thick, also offers protection from most animals. That’s because animals don’t use tents and don’t know what they are; apparently, a closed tent is seen as a solid object, just like a rock. If, however, you leave the tent open, mosquitoes may be the least of your worries if a few hyenas decide they also like your shelter’s cosy interior.

As a rule of thumb, any animal that can see into your tent will be more likely to come inside. For a short trip, a nifty “instant” tent is a handy tool; but remember that they are terrible in the wind. Because they are made from lightweight polyester, they’re generally not particularly tear- or wear-resistant either. For a sturdier (but much heavier) tent, try a rip-stop canvas option, with a material weight from about 320gsm (grammes per square metre) upward. Take a good look at the poles and zips too, before making a considered choice of one that should last many years.

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